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"In the face of overwhelming odds, I'm left with only one option: I'm gonna have to science the shit out of this."
Mark Watney
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The Martian is a science-fiction film based on Andrew Weir's novel of the same name. Set in the year 2035, the film follows astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) in his efforts to survive alone on Mars after his crewmates were forced to abandon the mission site believing him dead. Upon learning that Mark is alive, the crew takes a major risk heading back to Mars to rescue him.

The film, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon, was released in October 2015. Official trailers for the movie can be found here and here.

Five In-Universe style promos featuring the main characters:

Character tropes go on to the Characters Sheet.


The Martian provides examples of:

    open/close all folders 

    Tropes # to F 
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: According to author Andy Weir, the plot is set in the not so distant year 2035.
  • Actor Allusion:
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Mark Watney's in-universe reaction to playing Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff" after retrieving the RTG. And then the dancing starts.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Jessica Chastain as Commander Lewis. Lewis' attractiveness in the book isn't explicitly stated, but it's pointed out that Beth Johanssen is the "looker" of the Ares III crew, implying that Lewis is of at best average attractiveness. Some have pointed out that the actresses were more "emaciated" than real astronauts should be, that they would have done better to cast actresses who were built like the real thing. Still, Dr. Johanssen is specifically described in the book as young and beautiful, so Kate Mara is not miscast.
  • Adaptational Badass: Not that Lewis isn't a badass in the source material, but she gets a bit more to do here than her book form.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Several of the problems encountered by Mark in the novel were cut entirely, such as flooding the Hab with hydrogen, accidentally frying the Pathfinder, the dust storm on the way to Schiaparelli crater, and flipping his rover descending into the crater.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The original novel did not have a Where Are They Now epilogue, whereas the film shows what happens to all the major players after the rescue mission is implemented.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: Due to the limits of the medium, it is just not possible to explain the specifics of everything Mark or NASA cooks up in detail the way the book does. One prominent instance is that the film has an extended montage of NASA testing and Mark implementing a modification to the Rover that involves replacing part of its roof with a balloon of Hab canvas, but completely omits the explanation of why this modification is necessary.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: The plot of the book is very consistent so when the movie starts to cut some stuff, it inevitably introduced some plot holes. Notable examples are:
    • After Mark sends a goofy picture of himself to NASA when they ask for a publicity shot, Annie complains she can't use it and needed a picture with his face, to which Kapoor responds that can't be done because Mark can't take off his helmet outside. In the book, this made sense because of the helmet's tinted sun visor, but in the film Mark frequently has the sun visor pushed back and his face is clearly visible in the sent photo.
    • The map of Mars that Vincent and Mindy use is wrong. While it does show where Pathfinder is, the hab is a ways away to the north-east (otherwise the drive would've taken hours, not days).
    • The hydrogen explosion. While the explosion did take place in the book, it happened under completely different circumstances, and the explanation "I forgot to account for the excess oxygen that I've been exhaling" actually made sense there. In the movie, it does not. Moreover, the movie itself forgets about "exhaled oxygen" problem right away: Mark is seen walking around with no helmet on 30 seconds later.
    • The whole space pirate joke worked in the book because he was out of communication with Earth due to the probe breaking down. In the film, Mark still was in communication with Earth and thus could receive permission to take the MAV, thus his using it was not piracy.
  • Adaptational Name Change: Venkat Kapoor's first name is now Vincent.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Annie Montrose is considerably less snippy and stressed here than her book counterpart, even though her first line is "You have got to be shitting me."
  • Adaptational Wimp: In the book, Mitch Henderson is a hard-ass "Drill Sergeant Nasty sports coach" and demonstrates this attitude in the fallout over the Ares crew's decision to implement the "Rich Purnell Maneuver" that he surreptitiously sent to them. In the book, Henderson knows that NASA has to pretend everything is going to plan and stands his ground against Teddy's threat that if he ever finds proof Henderson was involved, he will fire him. In the movie, Henderson is rather unassertive in their confrontation, and when Teddy tells him straight up to resign as soon as the Ares III mission is over, he accepts the decision without protest.
  • Adapted Out: Commander Lewis didn't just have a huge collection of 70's Disco music; she had an equally huge collection of '70s television shows, and Mark fills his logs with all the Fridge Logic he notices. This was removed because getting the additional licensing for television shows in addition to the music would have added millions to the cost of the movie.
  • All There in the Manual: The book explains that the Hab airlock malfunctioned because of the additional wear and tear that Mark added since it was only designed to last 31 days.
  • Almost Out of Oxygen: The Broken Faceplate leads to a severe loss of oxygen in Mark's spacesuit. Cue Duct Tape for Everything.
  • And Mission Control Rejoiced: Happens multiple times over the course of the movie. Once after the supply rocket successfully takes off until it explodes. Once when the Chinese rocket successfully takes off. And, once when the Hermes crew successfully retrieve Watney.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The film ends with an epilogue showing the launch of Ares 5 after Mark had successfully returned to Earth. Martinez is shown piloting the mission. Mark would never again go into space, although his new job at NASA is training new recruits in survival techniques that no doubt will be invaluable in future emergencies.
  • Arc Words: "Bring him home."
  • Armor-Piercing Response: After discovering Watney is still alive, NASA immediately starts putting together plans to prepare a resupply probe with the near-impossible goal of three months. Teddy makes the stakes very clear.
    Teddy: Bruce has three months to get the payload done. That's all that matters right now.
    Bruce: We'll do our best.
    Teddy: Mark dies if you don't.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The movie inaccurately implies Mark would be receiving sufficient vitamins, minerals, fat and other essential nutrients from his grown potatoes and rations. The book explains that the Hab actually has a large supply of multivitamin tablets specifically to prevent this problem, but it was skipped over in the film.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • The Martian atmosphere is so thin that it could never displace multi-ton objects like the launch vehicle depicted in the film. Even with heavy storms as depicted in the movie, it would at most feel like a breeze (author Andy Weir has admitted that he knew this when he wrote the scene, but needed it that way in order to strand Whatney).
    • Mars, in the film, exhibits Earth gravity, presumably for ease-of-filming. Mars has only 0.376 Earth gravity, so a 100 lb weight would only weigh about 38 lbs. Watney would have far more bounce to his step in the Hab, and been thrown further by the explosion, etc.
    • The sunsets on Mars look a very bright, vibrant orange, like on Earth. Earthen sunsets are such because of the way the light interacts with our thick, blue atmosphere. With Mars being 50 million miles farther away and with an atmosphere 1% that of Earth's and dominated by dust scattering, it should look a more pale gray-blue color.
    • When Mark gets Pathfinder operational, one of the technicians specifically addresses that there will be a 32-minute interval between responses effectively killing any "snappy repartee". However, to keep the narrative flowing, the communication sequences are shot as if the interchange is going much faster to the point where the lag time becomes non-existent by the end of the film.
    • Mark's "Iron Man" plan was vetoed in the book for a long list of reasons (including but not limited to):
      • His hand was not rigid enough to provide a controllable thrust vector and it's not his body's center of mass, which makes it a terrible and unbalanced position for a thrust vector. In addition, his malnourished body with broken ribs would not have the resilience to stand up to the stresses of the maneuver.
      • Once Mark starts spinning it would introduce problems like being unable to stop unless he can exert the proper counter-thrust made increasingly more difficult by the growing disorientation which also increases the odds of him thrusting himself in the wrong direction and spinning out into space.
      • Space suits, like the one Watney is wearing in the climax, are only pressurized to 4-psi (pressurizing a suit to 14.7-psi, or one atmosphere, actually hinders movement). Realistically, there wouldn't have been enough air in the suit to even alter Watney's course.
  • America Saves the Day: Subverted, after the Iris supplies probe explodes soon after takeoff, China gives NASA their booster so they can put together another plan before Watney starves to death.
  • As You Know: Pops up here and there. Characters often explain to other characters things that astronauts and NASA administrators should already be well aware of. For example, in the storm at the beginning, the characters ask questions about the procedure on when to scrub the mission that should have been well-drilled into these people before leaving Earth.
  • Badass Boast: Several times by Watney, given both his sense of humor and need to keep his own morale up.
    • (immediately after listing all the things that can potentially kill him) "I'm not gonna die."
    • Mars will come to fear my botany powers.
    • [...] I've colonized Mars. In your face, Neil Armstrong."
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: Mark's line "I'm definitely gonna die up here... if I have to listen to any more god-awful disco music."
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Mark proposes flying like Iron Man by puncturing his glove and using that to propel him toward the Hermes. It's rejected as a plan, but when he does it anyway, he is promptly blasted backward against the wall. He then discovers controlling his flight vector is exactly as hard as he was warned about.
  • Blown Across the Room: Mark, after he gets the oxygen/hydrogen mix wrong on his water factory. He immediately makes a video log saying as much in a dry, matter-of-fact manner, while his clothes and hair are still smoldering. The next time he tries it, he's in a jury-rigged bomb suit which also serves the purpose of keeping his breath from affecting the process (he suspects his exuberant yelling over his success caused the blast).
  • Babies Ever After: Beck and Johanssen strike up a romance over the course of the mission. The Where Are They Now credits shows them as brand-new parents still in the delivery ward as they watch the Ares-5 astronauts take off. A deleted scene shows that Commander Lewis was fully aware of the (against regulations) relationship, but allowed it to continue due to the mission's extraordinary circumstances.
  • Beeping Computers: All computers shown produce sounds.
  • Book-Ends: The movie opens with a shot of Mars from space, and ends with a similar shot of Earth from orbit.
  • Bowdlerise: In the original novel, many characters swear like sailors. In the movie adaptation, the only person to say 'fuck' is Mark, and we hear him say it twice... even though PG-13 allows for only one f-bomb, the MPAA did a special vote to allow the second use because it was judged that the context in which the word was used was appropriate for the story. However, the rest of Mark's swearing is hidden by clever camera placement and editing. At one point Vincent remarks that Mark told the NASA botany team to "go have sex with themselves" but we know what word he's using.
  • Boring Return Journey: The return journey of the Hermes is not shown.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: The JPL team dust off their old computers when Mission Control determines that Mark is going for the Mars Pathfinder probe and the Sojourner rover (that landed on Mars in 1997) and use it for communication.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Bruce Ng, after hearing that Mark's crops are now dead and he and his team have an even tighter deadline to come up with a workable solution for the supply probe, turns off his Skype call and nervously says, "I'm gonna need a change of clothes," while adjusting his pants.
  • Broken Faceplate: Mark's helmet visor gets cracked; he has to try to hold it together with duct tape until he can swap it for one of the Hab's extra helmets.
  • Buffy Speak: "I'm going to have to science the shit out of this."
  • Call-Back: Mark Watney's efforts to survive Mars begin with him planting potatoes, and he strokes the stem of his first sprout with the greeting "Hey, There". The first scene of the epilogue shows Watney stroking a small plant that has burst through the gravel and giving the same greeting.
  • Captain Colorbeard: After deciding that he's a pirate, Mark insists that the ground crew address him as "Captain Blondbeard."
  • Captain Obvious: Lampshaded, by himself.
    Mark: This is Mark Watney... and I'm still alive... obviously.
  • Captain's Log: Mark's video log is used for exposition.
  • Casual Danger Dialog: Mark likes to have these. During the climactic knuckle-biting deadly maneuver he finds the time to rascally joke about the Iron Man suit and demanding the memorials to be all about him and not the six of them.
  • Celebrity Paradox: At one point, Mark mentions Iron Man. Assuming that the world of The Martian contains the MCU and not just Marvel comic books, then he's completely failed to notice that Beck and Martinez look a lot like characters from Marvel films. Johanssen, team's tech, was both The Invisible Woman and had a cameo in Iron Man 2. It's not clear if he's ever met Kapoor, but he'd be surprised as the resemblance to someone from Doctor Strange (2016). Furthermore, one of the Asgardian actors in Thor: Ragnarok looks suspiciously like Mark himself.
  • Centrifugal Gravity: The Hermes has a spinning section, providing artificial gravity for the crew on their long journey.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Mark is a botanist. Comes in very handy when he becomes stranded and realizes he will need to grow food in order to live long enough for the next mission to come retrieve him.
    Mark: Mars will come to fear my botany powers.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: When Watney finds out NASA didn't tell the rest of the crew he is alive, the camera moves outside the insulated rover as he begins spewing out every curse he knows. When the message is shown at Mission Control, half of it is censored out with asterisks and dashes with only the first letter remaining
  • Cool Spaceship: The Ares spacecraft Hermes is stunningly beautiful.
  • Compressed Adaptation: In the film version, there are a number of scenes cut out from the book: when Watney shorts out Pathfinder with the drill or when he runs into a dust storm on the way to Schiaparelli Crater Ares IV site or the fact that he is also a Mechanical Engineer,note  but their omission from the movie doesn't really change that much from the source material.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: Generally subverted throughout the movie as Watney, NASA and the Hermes crew use sound scientific principles to try to make the best decisions possible based upon the limitations of the scenarios they face. The one crazy idea that does fit is Watney's decision to deliberately puncture his suit while in orbit and "fly like Iron Man" which requires a generous helping of Artistic License to pull off successfully.
  • Cutting the Knot: The directors of the CNSA go directly to the director of NASA with their offer to help. This forces the politicians on both sides to work things out, leaving the scientists and engineers on both sides to collaborate relatively unimpeded.
  • Description Cut: Vincent Kapoor muses what could be going through Watney's head when the man is stranded all alone on a distant planet with little hope of survival, and it cuts to Mark drying himself off, listening to "Turn the Beat Around".
    Mark: I'm definitely gonna die up here... if I have to listen to any more god-awful disco music.
  • Diegetic Switch: Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff" switches from Mark's stereo in his rover to the soundtrack.
  • Do Not Go Gentle: Mark's first few days after being abandoned are filled with depression. He lists all the technical failures that could kill him, he packs up the belongings of all his teammates, and sits moodily in the shadows while a dust storm rages outside. Then he decides "I'm not going to die here" and from that moment on, Watney never gives up and this is what he urges the astronaut trainees at the end of the movie, when they too are facing 'certain' death.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: In-Universe when Vincent Kapoor starts to explain the Space Pirate joke, only to be told that Watney's already done so.
  • Door Slams You: When Lewis opens the airlock door during the storm, it slams her against the wall and the airlock fills with wind-blown sand.
  • Duct Tape for Everything: The reel of duct tape at Watney's belt is a real lifesaver. The two most prominent examples come after the explosive decompression incident that tears the airlock off the Hab. Being thrown around the airlock fractures his faceplate, and only a frantic application of tape stops him from suffocating as his oxygen is vented into the thin atmosphere. Then, since he doesn't have the means to repair the airlock, he makes the Hab airtight again with a tarp, some ratchet straps, and lots more duct tape.
  • Due to the Dead: Before they discover he's alive, NASA officials discuss getting funding from Congress for another mission. Vincent Kapoor suggests that if they pitch bringing back Watney's body as one of the mission objectives, they might get a more sympathetic response.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: It takes a lot of effort and many years in space and away from Earth, but in the end, Watney is rescued by his crew.
  • E = MC Hammer: Rich Purnell has a large blackboard in his room, full of complex equations.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: When the Nations of the World Montage cuts to Trafalgar square, Big Ben can be seen in the background.
  • Establishing Character Moment: After waking up on Mars and realizing exactly what has happened, Mark gets up, calmly makes his way back to the Hab despite being in great pain, performs emergency surgery on himself (with only local anesthetic) to remove the embedded piece of the communications antenna that struck him and then, only after he's finally more or less stabilized, does he react to being stranded on Mars not with a panic attack but with a single, totally appropriate f-bomb.
  • Eureka Moment:
    • Rich Purnell has one in his office regarding the slingshot maneuver.
    • Vincent Kapoor has one when watching Mark's movement on the map and realizing that he is planning to reach the Pathfinder site.
  • Everybody Lives: With the exception of Mark's potatoes, there are no deaths in the film. Yes, even in a film directed by Ridley Scott, and prominently including Sean Bean, though his character does commit career suicide.
  • Everything Is An Ipod In The Future: NASA's tech, as seen on the Hermes and Hab, is mostly white and modern, and the interfaces we see are slick and graphical.
  • Extreme Graphical Representation: NASA's huge control room display.
  • Failed Attempt at Drama:
    • Watney makes a funny joke, shuts down the Hab, signs his calendar, walks into the airlock... and has to go back for his space helmet.
    • When Watney reaches the MAV, he pulls down a Big Electric Switch to lower the ladder. Nothing happens until he brushes sand off a couple of buttons and pushes one.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • The first time we see Watney shirtless is while trying to plug the wound he got from the antenna. He's also bleeding quite a bit.
    • After around 500 sols, we see Watney exit a shower naked — his body is obviously malnourished and covered in bruise-colored swatches.
    • Toward the end of the film, there are several close-up shots of Watney's face showing how his teeth have considerably yellowed and decayed and his skin has grown wasted and sunken.
  • Fanservice: A brief shot of Commander Lewis' rear as she climbs up the ladder into the MAV in a ridiculously form-fitting EVA suit.
  • The Film of the Book: Of The Martian, by Andy Weir.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The bomb that is used to breach the VAL is wired to a lighting panel. When the bomb is triggered, the screen immediately flashes "Malfunction".
  • From Bad to Worse: Played for Laughs when Vincent, Mitch and Bruce are discussing what Watney will have to remove from the MAV in order to reduce weight so it will actually get into space. When Vincent starts balking at Bruce's recommendation to remove all the backup comms, Mitch gives a sad chuckle saying "He's not even got to the bad stuff yet, Vincent". Bruce then explains how Watney will essentially need to remove the front of the ship and replace it with a tarp.
  • Funny Background Event: When Teddy tells Bruce that they have three months to get a supply probe ready, one of the JPL guys holds up a notepad that says "NO!"

    Tropes G to L 
  • Genius Thriller: For Mark Watney, there is No Antagonist other than Mars' unrelentingly brutal nature, just waiting for him to screw up and die. Watney has to do whatever he can with just his knowledge and what supplies are on the habitation dome to survive.
  • Get Out!: Played for Laughs after Rich Purnell explains his plan to save Mark Watney, which involves props, spaceship noises, and stealing Teddy's pen. Teddy flatly tells him "Rich. Get out." to preserve what little dignity he has left at this point.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: Averted; though people back on Earth wonder a lot about how he's coping psychologically, Watney's natural jokey manner and determination, plus communication with Earth, helps avert the trope.
    Mindy Park: Hu... he did ask us to call him Captain Blondbeard...
  • Go Out with a Smile: Watney makes sure his Space Pirate joke is the last entry in his Captain's Log before shutting down the Hab computer and leaving on the risky journey to the MAV.
  • Gratuitous Disco Sequence: A Running Gag, as the only music left behind when the mission is abandoned is Commander Lewis's extensive collection of disco music, much to Watney's ongoing chagrin.
  • Hard-Work Montage: Set to David Bowie's "Starman", this one covers Watney preparing to journey to Ares 4, JPL and the Chinese space agency preparing the resupply probe, and the Hermes crew preparing to rendezvous with the probe.
  • Historical In-Joke: Mark tells the crew to tell Martinez "No Barrel Rolls!" This is something that has been stated to every Boeing Airliner test pilot since the Boeing 367-80s famous roll in 1955.
  • Hope Spot: The Iris launch is tense, and has a successful liftoff. Then the troubles begin...
  • Hope Sprouts Eternal: The sprouting of Watney's first potato plant is presented this way; he even greets it with obvious joy. Later Subverted when an explosive decompression of the Habitat kills off all his potatoes, with no means of growing more. At the end of the film, when back on Earth, he sees another plant sprouting through the gravel at his feet and greets it just like he did the first.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Watney complains about Mission Control trying to get him excited about their insane plan to launch him into orbit in a completely stripped down MAV by saying he'll go faster than anyone in the history of space travel. Then he admits it actually sounds pretty cool. But he's not going to tell them that.
  • If I Do Not Return: When several misfortunes make it seem all but certain Watney will die on Mars, he never gives up, but does want to prepare for every possible outcome. As such, he asks Lewis to tell his parents that he's proud of what he's done and believes he died for something greater than himself.
  • If My Calculations Are Correct: "The math checks out" or "we ran the numbers" tends to be the shortcut phrase to justify that some of the more complicated astrophysics navigation maneuvers will work.
  • Important Haircut: As the trip to the Schiaparelli Crater takes weeks, Mark's hair grows longer and he grows a shaggy beard. Just before he suits up in the space suit to take off, he cuts his hair short again and shaves the beard off.
  • Improvised Microgravity Maneuvering: Used twice in the climax. Once by the Hermes when it blows out an airlock door to slow down enough to intercept the MAV and then by Watney when he pokes a hole in his suit glove to accelerate to Lewis's position when her own safety line won't reach him.
  • Indy Ploy: The crew has to improvise heavily during the climatic maneuver to snatch Mark from orbit.
  • Incredibly Obvious Bomb: Unlike in the novel where it's just a glass beaker with a wire going into it, secured by duct tape, the bomb constructed by Vogel flashes and beeps after it's plugged into a USB port, and attaches to the airlock door with a clunk like a magnetized limpet mine.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: In the tension of the pre-launch of the MAV, Watney breaks down crying when he hears the voices of his crewmates for the first time in well over a year, knowing they've all come back to rescue him.
  • In Space, Everyone Can See Your Face: Every spacesuit comes with broad visors and face-floodlights. Looks cool in the darkness of the dust storm, though.
  • Insult of Endearment: Nearly every line of dialogue between Watney and the Ares crew is an affectionate verbal barb.
    Martinez: Sorry we left you behind on Mars, but we just don't like you.
  • In-Universe Soundtrack: The only music Mark Watney can find to listen to is a collection of disco music files on Commander Lewis's laptop computer. He uploads the music to his rover's onboard computer and listens to it throughout the film even as he complains about it. Highlights include "Hot Stuff" by Donna Summer and "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor.
  • It's All My Fault:
    • It's implied that Beck feels responsible for Mark's situation, being the one who said he was dead and that they should leave him. When they hear that Mark is alive, Beck looks horrified.
    • Lewis is hit particularly hard with the news of Watney's survival, as she's the mission commander and gave the official order to take off while he was presumed dead. She insists on holding herself responsible despite Beck trying to share the blame.
  • Last Minute Hook Up: Beck and Johanssen share a sort-of kiss right near the end. In the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue, they're welcoming a new baby. In a scene that was deleted from the movie, it's confirmed that Beck and Johanssen had hooked up shortly after the Hermes began its return to Mars, and that Lewis knew about it and grudgingly accepted their sleeping together. This scene is taken from the book.
  • Latex Space Suit: The Martian EVA suits are made of a strong, Kevlar-like material. Aside from the fishbowl helmet and some equipment on their back, they are skintight albeit padded out with an insulated jumpsuit underneath. On the other hand, the vacuum EVA suits are very similar to NASA's current EMU suits — big, bulky, and uncomfortable two-piece hardsuits.
  • Layman's Terms: Johanssen gives an elaborate technical explanation on how to prevent remote override from Mission Control, upon which Martinez demands a translation into English.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In the novel, Watney notes that if this were a movie, the entire crew would be at the airlock to greet him. Which is exactly what happens in the movie. In the book, they are all still at their posts.)
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: Johanssen kisses Beck's helmet just before he goes EVA near the end of the film, then tells him not to tell anyone.
  • Lighter and Softer: In comparison to Ridley Scott's other stabs at Science Fiction (Alien, Blade Runner, Prometheus), The Martian is considerably more optimistic than those other films, given its hopeful tone and very positive viewpoint of NASA. Some critics have even argued that the film is probably the lightest film he's ever done.
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    Tropes M to R 
  • MacGyvering: The solution to every problem is to use all available resources (including many that were simply lying around from previous missions) in unexpected ways like a wooden crucifix providing kindling to start a fire to make water.
  • Meanwhile, in the Future...: When Mark is being rescued at the climax of the movie, the scene cuts back and forth between the events happening at Mars and various reactions from those listening in on Earth, despite the fact that it was expressly stated that Mars was 12 light minutes away, so the "live" reactions are happening 12 minutes after the Mars scenes.
  • Million-to-One Chance: Downplayed. To meet their launch window, NASA takes the calculated risk of skipping the pre-flight tests and inspections on the Iris probe because past experience shows that they only reveal problems 1 in 20 times. Unfortunately, probability was a harsh mistress.
  • Mission Control: The NASA sets are simply stunning, with dizzying arrays of flashy monitors.
  • Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: Hard sci-fi. The movie is firmly grounded in reality (apart from the Mars wind issue). Even the potato/poop plot turns out to be a viable survival strategy.
  • Mundane Solution: As Mark is modifying the Rover for his journey to the MAV, he notes how the smartest minds available to NASA are all working to help him, and the plan they've come up with boils down to "drill holes in the roof and hit it with a rock."
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: Mark's communications through the Rover link are usually shown with the profanities dashed out. On one occasion, when Mark is told that his crewmates hadn't been informed about his survival and responds with a Cluster F-Bomb, the audience gets to see and hear little more than the horrified reactions of Mission Controlnote , aware that his words are being transmitted all over the world. The next scene is Teddy profusely apologizing to the President for Mark's vulgar outburst. Either Mark remembers to censor himself in future shots or NASA added a filter just in case.
  • Nations of the World Montage: The entire world takes up the rally of "Bring him home." Several NASA officials say it throughout the film and once Watney's perilous rescue begins, millions and millions of people are shown holding signs, wearing T-shirts, and posting hashtags emblazoned with the pleading words.
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer: When his boss asks Rich Purnell what his Eureka Moment was all about, the latter doesn't answer but goes straight to his desk to work on his sudden insight which annoys his boss completely.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Mark's humor is limited to a single snark. The trailer also seems to imply that he has a wife and child he doesn't have in the movie — they're his crewmate's family and not plot relevant. And the trailer makes it seem like NASA finds out that Mark is alive by seeing a message he sent with Pathfinder, rather than through satellite imagery.
  • Newscaster Cameo: Several real-life news agencies, including CNN, BBC, and CNA, report on the events of the film. We even see Jeff Daniels in a press related role.
  • No Antagonist: Plot complications come from Watney's efforts to survive on Mars, and NASA's efforts to bring him back. Teddy drags his feet a bit on things, but it's due to a difference in priorities rather than morality.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Justified, to tragic effect. The Iris resupply probe takes longer to prepare than estimated so to meet their launch window, NASA takes the calculated risk to skip the pre-flight tests and inspections. Unfortunately, things go wrong when the protein packs liquefy from the g-forces and create an unbalanced load, causing the rocket to wobble and break up from the stress. As a bitter irony, it's indicated that they would have identified this situation in the inspection stage.
  • Not So Above It All: During the "Council of Elrond" scene the normally uptight Teddy Sanders insists that if they're going to make The Lord of the Rings references, he be given the codename "Glorfindel".
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: You're not shown what Mark says to Mission Control after being told to watch his language (because their conversation is being broadcast globally), but it's evidently a humdinger. In the Extended Editions, it's revealed that he called the President a "bureaucratic felcher".
  • Oh, Crap!: Mindy Park, when she looks at the satellite imagery and realizes Mark Watney is still alive, stares at the screen in utter horror for a moment.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: Mark boastfully declares himself the greatest botanist on the entire planet.
  • Paranoia Fuel: In-universe. After the airlock blows up and Mark has to cover it using a spare canvas and duct tape, a storm arrives that night. The sound of the canvas blowing from the winds understandably drives Mark, who is not wearing an EVA suit to protect him if it rips and causes another explosive decompression, to the edge. And he has to live like this for over a year.
  • Pass the Popcorn: JPL engineer Tim smiles and pops a snack in his mouth as Vincent futilely tries to calm Mark down from his Cluster F-Bomb response after learning that his crewmates don't yet know he's alive.
  • Picture-Perfect Presentation: Used twice.
    • Early on, Teddy Sander's speech to the public about Watney's death transitions from a TV screen into the press room.
    • Towards the end, an aerial photograph of Mars's surface on a monitor in NASA's control room dissolves into a bird's eye view on site.
  • Planning with Props:
    • Rich Purnell explains his plan for rescuing Mark using a stapler as the Hermes spacecraft, a pen as the supply shuttle, and two high-ranking NASA officials as Earth and Mars.
    • During the run-up to the last phase of the rescue, Commander Lewis goes over the details one last time using salt and pepper shakers to represent Mark and the Hermes spacecraft.
  • Popcultural Osmosis Failure: Rich Purnell's proposed Spaceship Slingshot Stunt is named Project Elrond, a reference Montrose, the PR person, doesn't get because she is the only one in the room who's not a trained scientist. Everyone else gets the reference immediately - even the Director of NASA.
  • Pop-Up Texting: The In-Universe promo hosted by Watney, ARES: Live, features "Crew Facts" giving backstory details on the characters as well as live tweets from people on Earth.
  • Precision F-Strike: Zig-zagged. In the original novel, most characters swear like sailors. In the movie adaptation, to preserve the tone of the novel but still keep a PG-13 rating required judicious use of actual f-bombs as well clever editing to shield ClusterFBombs and other swearing while still keeping the strong emotional core.
    • Two f-bombs are delivered directly without editing from Watney. note  First is right after his self-surgery to remove the antenna. He sits there as the full weight of his situation hits him and yells "Fuck!" Later, after he decides he's not going to die on Mars and starts moving in dirt for his potato farm, he rests from his efforts for a moment and calmly states, "Fuck you, Mars."
    • When NASA informs Watney that the Ares crew has not yet been told he is still alive. He is furious and responds with a Cluster F-Bomb. The movie keeps its PG-13 rating through clever editing like switching to an exterior shot of Watney through the window clearly mouthing "What the F...?" without sound or by having a technician reading Mark's written response but substituting the phrase "F-word" several times. After Vincent asks him to watch his language, he angrily adds a new response and while the content is never shared with the audience we see NASA employees' reaction to his message and the next scene has Teddy apologizing to the President.
    • Later messages appear to have implemented a filter into the communication channel as Mark's response presented on-screen when NASA tells him to strip the Ares IV to the bare minimum in order to save weight is "Are you f- - -king kidding me?"
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "You... have... terrible taste... in music!"
  • Race Lift:
    • Venkat Kapoor is Indian in the book but in addition to a name change for Vincent, is now half Black and half Indian. This was presumably done for his actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, as the original actor chosen for the role, Irrfan Khan, could not participate due to previous obligations in a Bollywood film.
    • Mindy Park also being played by Mackenzie Davis. Park's ethnicity in the book is not mentioned, though Weir stated that he had imagined her as Korean or Korean-American.
  • Recognition Failure: Poor Rich just isn't great with people.
    Rich: I'm sorry, what's your name again?
    Teddy: Teddy. (beat) I'm the Director of NASA.
  • Re-Cut: Scott has confirmed that there will be an extended version on video, by about 15 to 20 minutes longer.
  • Red Herring: The "Our Greatest Adventure" promotional video mentions asteroids bombarding the Hermes and the exposure to cosmic radiation as potential threats to the safety of the Ares mission. This is flavor and never comes up in the film itself.
  • Robinsonade: It's a person "shipwrecked" to fend for himself.
  • Robot Dog: After using the Pathfinder lander to contact the Earth, Watney keeps the accompanying Sojourner rover as a pet.
  • Rule of Drama:
    • In the book Beck is the one to retrieve Mark, and the "Iron Man" maneuver is discussed but dropped as being too dangerous. The closest approach to the MAV is within tether length, so the Iron Man maneuver is unnecessary. In the movie the closest approach is way outside of tether length, thus Lewis overrides Beck and rescues Watney herself, fitting her role as The Atoner for leaving him behind in the first place. This involves a couple of untethered space walks and the Iron Man maneuver, while in the book Beck and Watney are always safely tethered.
    • The script's mostly faithful to the actual dialogue spoken by the characters in the book, with one notable exception being Johannsen happily announcing to Houston the successful rescue of Watney. In the novel, Commander Lewis simply informs Houston the success of their mission with the protocol phrasing, stating all six crew has been accounted for.
      Johannsen: Houston, this is Hermes actual. We got him!
      [a few minutes later, after Lewis and Watney make it inside the vessel and the hatch is closed]
      Lewis: Houston, all six crew safely aboard.
  • Running Gag: Cdr. Lewis's disco music.

    Tropes S to Z 
  • Scenery Porn: All of the shots of Mars's landscape are this. The space scenes also qualify.
  • Scotty Time: According to JPL, assembling a probe to resupply Mark Watney will take six months; Houston's immediate response is to tell them to do it in three. Immediately lampshaded by Teddy Sanders predicting the course of the conversation to follow; justified because Watney's limited food supply is a deadline that can't be extended. Subverted when the time pressures get bad enough that NASA has to skip inspections to launch on time... and the probe is destroyed during launch.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Mitch Henderson sent Rich Purnell's calculations to the Hermes crew behind Sanders' back, and the crew voted to go against NASA orders to use those calculations to take the Hermes back to Mars to rescue Watney, all knowing they would face court-martial or being banned from the space program as a result. In the "Refocused" extra, it's made explicit that Mitch Henderson becomes the sole fall guy for the whole end-run around NASA — explaining why Martinez is piloting for Ares V — but it hasn't hurt him too badly; he moves into private consultancy and, although he and Teddy are more than willing to hurl insults at each other, they meet a few times a year to play golf together. Depending on who you believe, either Teddy really sucks at golf, or Mitch cheats.
  • Self-Surgery: Mark gets a piece of steel antenna guyline lodged in his abdomen during the windstorm that caused the mission to abort. The rest of the crew was headed back to Earth, believing him to have been lost and killed in the storm. He removes the shrapnel himself and then staples the wound closed. Mark had to re-staple at least once, as one scene from the POV of a hab camera has him stating in exasperation to the camera that an exertion during an EVA caused a staple to pop.
  • Shirtless Scene: When Mark returns to the HAB after the initial accident her strips off his shirt to check is wound. He's banged up and looks like death warmed over after being abandoned, but viewers get to see Matt Damon's bare chest. It occurs again towards the end, but now to show how malnourished he is after trying to stretch his rations.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work: Readers of the book might have been confused by seeing prominent mesas near the Ares 3 landing site at Acidalia Planitia, when in the book it's described as a "featureless wasteland". It turns out that the film is just matching actual photos of the site, which were taken after the book became popular.
  • Sigil Spam: The NASA logo appears everywhere, even on the soles of the EVA suits' shoes. The logo is protected under federal laws that make it illegal to use it in a way that indicates NASA endorsement of something if no such endorsement exists. For that reason, the official logo is often replaced with a generic alternative in works of fiction (for instance, in Interstellar), a very specific form of Greeking. In the case of The Martian, NASA actually produced a number of tie-in videos (released on their TV channels and YouTube) as a way of drumming up interest in the exploration of Mars.
  • Skewed Priorities: Played for laughs. Mark decides that instead of being concerned that he's kept warm by a decaying radioactive isotope behind him, his biggest problem is that "the least disco song" Lewis owns is Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff", which he plays on the way back to the Hab.
  • Skip the Anesthetic: Played with — Mark injects himself immediately before Self-Surgery to pull that chunk of metal out of his abdomen, but it's clear from Matt Damon's portrayal that either it wasn't a local anesthetic, Mark didn't wait long enough for it to kick in, or the shock and pain of his situation and other injuries hurt just as bad.
  • Sliding Scale of Adaptation Modification: Although certain details and minor plot points of the novel were adjusted or dropped to fit the medium of film, a good deal of effort was made to keep the overall narrative close to its source material in tone and themes.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Very much on the idealism side. Everyone in this movie who isn't Watney is either trying to help Watney, or following his progress and rooting for him. No villains, no self-serving politics, no ulterior motives, just intelligent people racing against time to save a man's life. Even when disagreements occur, they're honest ones; two people who both firmly believe they are doing the right thing, but disagree about what the right thing is.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: The movie starts out with this, with Mark reporting on the soil he's collecting and Martinez snarking that Mark had "found dirt", then Watney counters with Martinez's job of just making sure visually that the MAV is standing up.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: "Faced with overwhelming odds, I'm left with only one option. I'm gonna have to science the shit out of this."
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: When Watney learns that his crew hasn't been informed that he wasn't killed outright in the disaster that forced them to leave Mars, the scene's vantage point switches to the exterior of the Mars rover where he conducts his communications with Earth, looking at him through the clear canopy of the rover. Thus, we clearly see, but don't actually hear, his reaction of "What the fuck? What the fuck?"
  • Space Is an Ocean: Technically Mars is under maritime laws; Mark uses some questionable logic to declare himself a Space Pirate.
  • Space Is Noisy: A few examples, including the low rumble of the Hermes can be heard as it passes by as well as the sound of atmosphere escaping from Mark Watney's suit after he pokes a hole in it to use it as an improvised thruster in the climax. Justified in that most incidents take place on Mars which, while thin, has an atmosphere and would allow for sound to travel.
  • Spaceship Slingshot Stunt: The Hermes spacecraft performs a gravity assist maneuver around the Earth, then Mars — this means they can't stop to pick up either their supplies or Mark Watney, both of which must be fired into space to intercept them.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Robinson Crusoe on Mars.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: After Mark declares himself a Space Pirate he asks to be called "Captain Blondbeard". After hearing this, Kapoor immediately thinks of the same maritime laws as Mark.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: At several parts, Commander Lewis's disco tracks match Mark's current situation.
    • Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff" plays when Mark has dug up the plutonium RTG to use as a source of heat inside the rover cabin instead of the rover's own battery-guzzling heater.
    • Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" plays over the credits.
    • David Bowie's "Starman" plays when Earth and the Hermes mobilize their main effort to go rescue Watney. The line: "There's a starman waiting in the sky" is truly appropriate.
    • Thelma Houston's "Don't Leave Me This Way" plays when Mark explains and demonstrates the misery of stretching out his already rationed food.
  • Talking with Signs: Since Watney's first contact with Earth after being left behind is video-only, he has to communicate by writing on plastic tub lids and holding them in front of the camera. After a little while, this becomes impractical — especially for receiving messages, since that more or less limits it to yes and no questions — and starts using hexadecimal instead.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • During his first try at making water, Mark cheers as he manages to get it going, just in time for it to literally blow up in his face and send him flying across the room.
    • At a certain point, the NASA Director states that he is worried about getting supplies in time to Mars, since they are facing a small window for error. He even notes that this is assuming nothing goes wrong. Cue an airlock that explosively decompresses, destroying Mark's crops, and the probe with supplies exploding after launch. Both incidents reduce his projected supply.
    • Subverted in-universe, when Mark Watney is talking about digging up the Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator to provide heat for his extended rover trips. The narration proceeds normally, with shots of him digging it up and prepping it for transport until he gets to a point where he says "as long as it doesn't break," then the camera cuts to him in the rover, riding with the RTG, and grinning.
      Mark: I almost said "everything will be okay" out loud.
  • This Is the Part Where...: Teddy Sanders anticipates Ng's response to his Scotty Time demand.
  • Time Lapse: Used subtly to show the soil getting moister from the outer edges to the center after Mark figures out how to make water in the Hab.
  • Time-Passage Beard: Mark grows a scraggly beard after a seven-month Time Skip. He shaves it off before taking off though.
  • Time Skip: The months-long overland journey from the Hab to Schiaparelli Crater (and all its associated hardships) was cut almost entirely to save on time.
  • Title In: Locations and characters are named via on-screen text.
  • Trailers Always Spoil:
    • The first trailer spoils almost all of the major twists including Mark using Pathfinder to contact Earth, the airlock failure, Hermes turning around (or to be more precise, looping around), and Mark eventually going to the Ares 4 site.
    • The trailer starts with one of the last lines of the book, about hikers getting lost, etc.
  • Turn in Your Badge: Sean Bean's character is asked to resign after the mission because he overstepped his authority by leaking information to the Hermes crew which allowed them to choose a course of action in direct violation of NASA's official orders.
  • Unfinished, Untested, Used Anyway: In order to meet their launch window when the resupply probe took longer to prepare than estimated, NASA takes a calculated risk to skip the pre-flight inspections to allow the probe to launch on time. Sadly, the rocket explodes shortly after lift-off due to the rations unbalancing the launch vehicle. In a bitter irony, it's indicated that they would have identified this situation in the inspection stage.
  • Video Credits: During the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue, every character is accompanied by their actor's name.
  • Viewer-Friendly Interface: The space center's supercomputer says "Calculations Correct" in a 72-point font when the calculations for the retrieval mission are made.
  • We Have to Get the Bullet Out: After he wakes up, Watney frantically removes a piece of the communications antenna from his abdomen. The importance of removing the foreign object is second only to getting breathable air. In this instance, it's probably justifiable because the antenna breached his EVA suit, which he can't get off as long as it's stuck there, and any medical help besides himself is literally over a million miles away.
  • What You Are in the Dark: The Chinese scientists have a classified booster that could give NASA one last chance to save Watney after the Iris explodes. They discuss the fact that if they choose not to help, no-one would ever know they could have helped and didn't. They choose to help, doing so in a manner that forces the politicians both in the USA and China to get dragged along by the scientific collaboration.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Watney is teaching new astronauts at NASA, Lewis is reunited with her husband, Vogel is living with his family, Beck and Johanssen have a baby, and Mitch is teaching kids golf. Meanwhile, the rest of the eggheads at NASA can enjoy another launch to Mars (with Martinez aboard) and everyone (Teddy, Kapoor, Park, etc.) can rest easy as mankind continues its expedition to the stars.
  • Window Love:
    • Martinez is talking to his wife back on Earth, and presses his hand against the computer screen image when she raises her own hand.
    • When Beck suits up and goes out to grab the resupply probe, he touches his face-plate and waves to Johanssen nearby in the Hermes, who tenderly touches the window in response. Later Johanssen gives Beck a Headbutt of Love, then kisses his EVA helmet.
  • You Are Not Alone: The story begins with Mark stranded on Mars with no hope of survival with his comrades on Earth completely ignorant of the fact that he is alive. However, after seeing him struggle to survive totally alone, Mark's movements are noticed by NASA and once they correctly conclude the situation, everything is devoted to trying to find some way to help him. With communication made practical when Mark restarts the Pathfinder machinery, he knows that NASA is in his corner with all their knowledge and resources determined to save him.
  • You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!: The PR woman's response to the news that Watney is alive but abandoned, and Watney's response to the plan for stripping the MAV.

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